Linseed Oil Vs Polyurethane – Pros and Cons

Linseed Oil Vs Polyurethane

When attempting to protect and preserve valuable furniture, floors, and decks, the question of which wood stain to use arises. Should one choose linseed oil or polyurethane? In comparing linseed oil vs polyurethane, there is a lot to consider. Cost, durability, and maintenance are all variables that need to be explored to determine which wood stain would best serve your desired outcome. To understand the comparison between linseed oil and polyurethane, it is important to understand the types of wood stain, what linseed oil is, and what polyurethane is. In this article, we will provide an in-depth evaluation of their respective benefits and answer the question of “which is best?” in terms of cost, durability, and maintenance.

Comparing Linseed Oil to Polyurethane for Furniture, Floors, and Decks

When looking to stain or protect furniture, floors, and decks, it is important to know the difference between linseed oil and polyurethane to make an educated decision. Both linseed oil and polyurethane can be used as wood stains to add beauty to any project, but they also come with some differences in terms of cost, durability, and maintenance. In this section, we’ll take a look at different types of wood stain, understand what linseed oil and polyurethane are, explore the benefit of each, and conclude which option is the better choice for you.

Types of Wood Stain

When it comes to maintaining and restoring wood surfaces, wood stain is one of the most reliable and cost-effective solutions available. There are a variety of wood stains available, including both linseed oil and polyurethane, to suit the project or needs of any homeowner. Below, we’ll provide an overview of several different types of wood stain.

  • Oil-Based Stain: This type of stain provides a long-lasting finish and an attractive color, while still allowing the wood’s natural grain to be visible. These stains use a blend of oils, varnishes, and resins. Since they are more durable than water-based stains, they can be used on both interior and exterior wood surfaces. However, this type of stain can be difficult to use and the fumes can be overwhelming and hazardous to breathe.
  • Water-Based Stain: This type of stain is easy to use and is great for transitioning color changes more gradually while maintaining the natural grain of the wood. This type of stain is often used to revive and restore furniture, floors, cabinets, and doors. While it provides a weaker finish and requires more frequent reapplication than other types of stain, it is much more user-friendly.
  • Linseed Oil: Linseed oil is a natural, organic stain that has been used for centuries. Linseed oil is easy to apply, has no odor, and penetrates deep into the wood, bringing out its natural color and grain. While it does not provide much protection from water, the resulting finish looks great and helps to preserve the natural look of the wood for a long time.
  • Polyurethane: Polyurethane is a synthetic varnish that provides a deep, rich finish. It’s available in both oil-based and water-based forms, and it is one of the more popular wood stains as it provides greater durability than linseed oil. Polyurethane also provides a greater range of color options than linseed oil.

Each type of wood stain has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to consider the needs of the project before deciding what wood stain to use.

What is Linseed Oil?

Linseed oil is derived from the dried and ripened seeds of the flax plant. It is a pale yellow-amber colored oil, with a drying and curing time of about 2 weeks. This oil has been used for many centuries as a finish for wood furniture, floors and decks. It brings out the beauty of the wood and serves as an excellent sealant, preventing wood from cracking and warping.

Although linseed oil does not have the hardness and scratch-resistant properties of polyurethane, it is much easier to use and can be wiped on with a rag, without needing to sand in between coats. Linseed oil will penetrate wood, sealing the wood fibers, and won’t form the plastic-like surface layer of polyurethane.

Freshly applied, linseed oil gives a bright golden color to the wood, but will darken as it ages due to exposure to oxygen. With age, linseed oil’s color should reach a rich patina that is consistent across the surface, penetrating deeply into the wood and giving a durable finish that withstands heat and moisture.

Linseed oil has a low odor and is preferred by many because it contains no harsh chemicals. In addition, it is available at a much lower cost than polyurethane, and is easier to apply. Although some regular maintenance is required due to the softer finish of linseed oil, it can be easily renewed with a light sanding and a new coat of linseed oil.

What is Polyurethane?

Polyurethane is a synthetic, resin-based product that is commonly used to stain, seal and protect wooden surfaces from wear and tear damage. Unlike natural oil-based stains, polyurethane offers a much tougher and more durable finish. It is a popular choice among DIYers due to its ease of application and quick drying times.

Polyurethane is a two-part product that is available in both oil- and water-based varieties, and it is applied by brushing, rolling, or spraying on the wooden surface. The oil-based versions provide a more durable and waterproof finish, and the water-based varieties are less durable and have a quicker drying time. Polyurethane can be darker in color, adding an extra layer of protection and a darker finish to the wood.

Polyurethane is a great choice for finishing and protecting furniture, floors, and decks. It is great for protecting against everyday wear and tear, and it can help to extend the life of the wood. It is also easy to clean, and it will add a protective and attractive finish to the wood. Polyurethane is available in a variety of finishes, from satin to glossy, so you can find the right finish to complement the wood.

Polyurethane is also highly durable and offers good protection against water damage, UV fading, and mildew. It can be applied with a brush, roller, or knitted brush, and it dries within 24 hours. It is more resistant to scratches and dents than linseed oil, although it can wear over time with wear and tear. One major downside to polyurethane is that it can contain potentially hazardous chemicals, so it is important to wear protective gear while applying and use only in well-ventilated areas.

Comparing Benefits of Linseed Oil and Polyurethane

After taking a look at the different types of wood stain, their application and the specialized considerations when using them, it’s time to compare the benefits of Linseed Oil and Polyurethane. We’ll look at cost comparison, durability, and maintenance required for each of these wood stains, to give us a comprehensive look at which one is the best for our furniture, floors, and decks.

Cost Comparison of Linseed Oil vs. Polyurethane

Linseed oil and polyurethane are two of the most popular wood stain finishes available to homeowners. When it comes to cost, there are some differences to be aware of. Here’s a breakdown of cost comparison between the two products.

Linseed Oil:

Linseed oil is generally the most affordable wood stain available. It’s typically only slightly more than the cost of paint. Additionally, linseed oil is highly concentrated and a little bit goes a long way. Because of this, one gallon of on oil will usually last for many staining applications.


Polyurethane tends to be more expensive than linseed oil. Since it is made from petroleum, the cost fluctuates with the cost of oil at any given time. However, it is relatively easy to apply and can give a long-lasting finish, making it a good value in the long run.

Cost Summary:

  • Linseed Oil: Relatively cheap, usually slightly more expensive than paint.
  • Polyurethane: More expensive than linseed oil, but can provide a long-lasting finish.

When it comes to cost, both linseed oil and polyurethane can be an economical choice. However, it is important to weigh other factors, such as finish and durability, before making a purchasing decision.

Durability of Linseed Oil and Polyurethane

When it comes to durability, both linseed oil and polyurethane have the potential to provide long-lasting protection against the elements. Yet, there are several differences to consider.

Linseed oil is considered a more natural wood finish, derived from flax seeds. Over time, it will become thinner, but it will continue to protect the wood and provide a natural look. Polyurethane, on the other hand, has a harder finish and is more suited for areas of heavier use, such as floors, decks, and outdoor furniture.

Overall, both finishes can last for many years, depending on the application and your environment. Yet, here are some key differences:

  • Linseed oil is softer and more vulnerable to scratches and dents. This means that it is best suited for lighter use areas, such as furniture or cabinets.
  • Polyurethane is much harder, which makes it highly resistant to scratches and dents. This makes it ideal for heavily used areas, such as floors and decks.
  • Linseed oil is easier to repair; if it gets scratched or damaged, the area can simply be lightly sanded and a fresh coat of oil applied. Polyurethane, on the other hand, is much harder to repair and will require a professional refinisher.

Therefore, when it comes to durability, both linseed oil and polyurethane have their advantages. Linseed oil is better for lightly used areas and is easier to repair, while polyurethane is more resistant to damage and better for heavily used areas. Which one is right for you will depend on your needs.

Maintenance of Linseed Oil and Polyurethane Wood Stain

Maintaining your wood surface with the correct wood finish will not only keep your hardwood flooring, furniture, and outdoor deck looking great, but also improve its lifespan. Linseed oil and polyurethane are two of the more popular finishes to choose from, and both require maintenance to preserve their look and integrity. Here are some details on the maintenance of linseed oil and polyurethane wood finishes:

Linseed Oil Maintenance:

  • Linseed oil finishes need to be reapplied every few years or when the color begins to fade.
  • It is best to wipe the surface before recoating to remove any dust or dirt.
  • Linseed oil should not be applied to a surface that is damp.
  • Linseed oil can be mixed with other oils, such as bee’s wax, to enhance the durability and water-resistance of the finish.
  • For extra gloss, buff the surface with a soft cloth after applying the linseed oil.

Polyurethane Maintenance:

  • Polyurethane finishes should be reapplied when the sheen begins to fade or the color begins to turn yellow.
  • In order to keep the sheen and color, it is important to lightly sand between coats.
  • It is important to avoid overlapping coats as this can lead to a streaky finish.
  • Polyurethane coatings are highly water-resistant, so it is important to be sure that the surface is dry before reapplying.
  • Between coats, the surface may need to be cleaned with an appropriate solvent to remove any dirt or debris.

By following the proper maintenance tips for both linseed oil and polyurethane wood finishes, you can keep your furniture, floors, and decks looking beautiful for years to come.

Conclusion: Comparing Linseed Oil vs. Polyurethane

In conclusion, linseed oil and polyurethane both offer a variety of benefits and disadvantages that should be carefully considered when deciding which to use on furniture, floors, and decks. Linseed oil is more readily available and less expensive than polyurethane, and it is great for protecting wood from wear and tear and gives it an attractive, natural finish. Polyurethane offers superior protection from water and other damage and is great for floors, decks, and furniture that need even more protection than linseed oil. It also lasts longer before needing to be reapplied. Ultimately, the decision between linseed oil or polyurethane for furniture, floors, and decks depends on the cost, the level of protection needed and, the ease of maintenance desired. When making the decision between linseed oil and polyurethane one should consider the cost, durability of the finish, and needed maintenance. With the right information, you can make an informed decision on which product to use and protect your furniture, floors, and decks for years to come.


Devin B

Hi everyone! My name is Devin and I'm the author of this website about tips for woodturning and wood finishing. I'm an avid woodworker and have been doing it for over a decade. I'm constantly learning new techniques and experimenting with new materials and finishes.

I started my journey in woodworking when I was a teenager, making furniture for my bedroom and small projects for my family. As I got older, my interest in woodturning and wood finishing grew. I took classes on the subject and read books on the topic.

I'm passionate about woodturning and wood finishing because it allows me to express my creativity in a tangible way. I love the satisfaction of seeing a piece of wood that I have transformed from a block of raw material into a beautiful finished product.

I hope you find the tips and advice on this website helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm always happy to help out and share my experiences. Thanks for visiting my website!